Dental Tips Blog


Teeth Whitening and Managing Sensitivity

Posted in Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening is a very popular cosmetic dentistry procedure.  It is inexpensive, produces noticeable results quickly, and has been used safely by millions of people with few adverse side effects.  However, some people experience increased sensitivity after whitening.  If you have ever experienced tooth sensitivity after whitening, you know how uncomfortable it can be.

Fortunately, you don’t have to give up on having a beautiful pearly white smile just because of increased sensitivity.  Not all teeth whitening patients experience increased sensitivity after a tooth whitening treatment.  For patients that do, it usually starts shortly after the whitening treatment and only lasts a day or two at most.

Taking an NSAID like Advil may help keep the discomfort to a minimum. If you have increased sensitivity for more than a few days after your tooth whitening treatment, see your dentist.  This may be a sign of a more serious problem.

To reduce sensitivity, many dentists recommend using a strong fluoride toothpaste for a few days or even weeks prior to the whitening treatment.  If you have experienced sensitivity in the past, your dentist may prescribe a prescription strength fluoride toothpaste to use prior to your treatment.  You can also try a desensitizing toothpaste that is available over the counter.  These toothpastes work best if you let the toothpaste remain on your teeth instead of rinsing thoroughly immediately after brushing.

For some patients, spreading the whitening treatment over a few visits can also help with sensitivity issues.  You can get great results with reduced sensitivity by using a less powerful whitening agent and leaving it on the teeth for shorter period of time, but you will need more whitening treatments.


Smile Makeovers With Cosmetic Dentistry

Posted in Uncategorized

If you would like a dazzling smile, cosmetic dentistry offers a wide variety of techniques to give you the look you desire.  No matter how stained, discolored, crooked or misaligned your teeth are, there is a procedure or combination of procedures that your cosmetic dentist can use to give you the look of straight, white, beautiful teeth.  Talk to your cosmetic dentist about developing a treatment plan that will meet your needs and fit your budget.

Teeth whitening produces fast results and is one of the least expensive cosmetic treatments.  You will see immediate results after a professional teeth whitening treatment at your dentist’s office.  Some patients may need more than one treatment to get the bright smile they desire.

If you have a mouth full of silver fillings, they can be replaced with tooth colored composite fillings.  The same material used for fillings can be applied to the surface of your teeth to fill chips and defects or to change the shape of the tooth.  This is called bonding.

Dental veneers are thin porcelain shells that are bonded to the surface of your teeth.  Dental veneers look and feel like your natural teeth.  They not only result in a pearly white smile, they can also be used to give the appearance of straighter teeth, fill gaps between teeth, and change the shape of the teeth.


You Have a Choice In Dental Fillings

Posted in Fillings

A dental cavity (also called dental caries) is a decayed area of a tooth caused by bacteria that produce acid which attacks the enamel of the tooth.  If you have a cavity, your dentist will repair the damaged tooth removing the decayed portion of the tooth and filling the area with a dental filling.  Fillings can also be used to repair a chipped, cracked or broken tooth.

You have several options for the material used for your dental fillings.  Gold fillings were popular years ago, but gold is less frequently used these days for filling cavities because there are much less expensive and more effective alternatives such as amalgam and composite materials.

Amalgam is a silver colored material made of various metals including silver, tin, and mercury.  Amalgam is a strong, long lasting filling material.  It can withstand chewing pressure and lasts 15 to 20 years or more.  It is also the least expensive material used for dental fillings.  Many people do not like the aesthetics of amalgam fillings and more tooth material must be removed to place an amalgam filling.  They are held in place through pressure and friction and do not add to the structural integrity of the tooth like composite fillings.

Composite fillings are made of synthetic resins and are tooth colored so they have much better aesthetics.  They usually do not require as much of the tooth to be removed and because they bond to the surface of the tooth, they add strength and support to the tooth.  They are not quite as strong or as durable as amalgam although they have greatly improved over the last 20 years.  Composite fillings may need to be replaced after about 10 years.


Choosing an Electric Toothbrush

Many dentists are recommending that their patients switch to an electric toothbrush to maximize their oral health.  Using an electric toothbrush between dental cleanings and checkups can reduce tooth decay and gum disease.  Unfortunately, your dentist probably doesn’t hand out a new electric toothbrush at every checkup and cleaning so you will have to buy it yourself.  Before choosing your new electric toothbrush, take a few minutes to learn about the options and features available so you can choose the right toothbrush to fit your needs and your wallet.

Electric toothbrushes come in two basic types:  electric and sonic.  The bristles on an electric toothbrush either rotate or move back and forth at about three to seven thousand cycles per minute.  Compared to the three to four hundred strokes per minute of the average manual toothbrush user, the electric toothbrush clearly does more brushing.

Sonic toothbrushes take it to the next level with thirty to forty thousand strokes per minute – about 100 times more brush strokes per minute than a manual toothbrush.  Both types come with options that help you brush effectively such as a timer that beeps after completing two minutes of brushing and a sensor that will tell you if you are pressing too hard on your teeth.  Most electric tooth brushes have different brushing modes such as gentle gum massage, sensitive teeth, and tooth polishing.

A true electric toothbrush has a rechargeable base with replaceable brushing heads.  The base unit plugs into the wall outlet to recharge and should last for years.  The brushing heads are meant to be replaced every three months or so.  Expect to pay between $50 and $150 for a high quality electric toothbrush.



Do You Need An Electric Toothbrush?

Maintaining good oral health is very important for reducing plaque that can cause tooth decay, gingivitis and gum disease.  All of these can eventually lead to tooth loss.  Although almost entirely preventable by good oral health care habits such as daily brushing and flossing and regular dental cleanings and checkups, more than 175 million Americans are missing one or more teeth and 35 million Americans have none of their natural teeth at all.

If you are concerned about doing all you can to maintain your oral health, you may be wondering if an electric toothbrush is worth the investment.  Electric toothbrushes cost between $50 and $150 and many people are reluctant to spend that much on a toothbrush unless they can be confident that it will improve their oral health.

The short answer is that for the vast majority of people, using an electric toothbrush will lead to better oral health.  Some studies have shown that electric toothbrushes do a better job at reducing plaque than manual toothbrushes.  Although other studies have reported that a manual toothbrush can be just as effective as a powered toothbrush, the reality is that very few people consistently use a manual toothbrush properly.  They don’t brush well enough or long enough and they often apply too much pressure.

One of the great advantages of an electric toothbrush is that it results in consistent proper tooth brushing.  They are equipped with timers to make sure that you brush long enough and sensors that tell you if you are applying too much pressure. Some will even signal when it is time to move the brush to another area of your mouth.  They are also much easier to use for people with limited manual dexterity, a common problem in older Americans.


Dental Filling Problems

Posted in Fillings

Most Americans have at least one dental filling although the rate of tooth decay has been declining slowly for decades due to advances in oral care and the widespread fluoridation of tap water.  We generally don’t give another thought to fillings and assume the tooth is permanently repaired.  Maintaining a filling is as easy as following good oral health practices:  Brush twice daily, floss once a day, and see your dentist for dental cleaning and check ups every six months.

However, even with good maintenance, most filling don’t last a lifetime. The majority of dental fillings placed these days are amalgam (silver colored) or composite (tooth colored).  An amalgam filling will typically need to be replaced at about 15 years while composite fillings do well to last 10 years. Problems can arise with either type of filling.

Over time, chewing pressure can wear down a filling or cause it to separate from the tooth.  When this happens, bacteria can get between the tooth and the filling and a new cavity can form under the filling.  Fillings can crack or fall out of the tooth.  In addition, the tooth itself can crack especially if it has been weakened by placement of a large filling

See your dentist if you notice that part or all of a filling has fallen out, if you feel sharp edges on your filling, or if a tooth with a filling suddenly becomes sensitive.  Some sensitivity is normal in a new filling, but it should clear up on its own after a few days.  If the sensitivity does resolve in a few weeks, see your dentist.  You may need to have a root canal.


Curbing Tooth Decay In Children

After decades of declining rates of tooth decay, recent reports of an increase in the number of cavities reported in baby teeth in children between the ages of 2 and 5 are a troubling indication of a potential reversal of decades of improved oral health in American.  There are similar reports of increased tooth decay in Canadian children.

The studies did not focus on the reason for the increased rate of tooth decay in this age group, but speculation focuses on increased intake of sugary drinks and foods, drinking bottled water instead of fluorinated tap water, and parents concerned about upsetting their children who resist teeth brushing.

Experts suggest starting an oral health regimen with children early, even before teeth appear.  Wiping your child’s gums or brushing gently with a soft, small brush can get them used to the routine.  This way, they will understand that it is a normal part of everyday hygiene. Once the child’s teeth appear, brush twice a day, floss daily, and make the brushing and flossing routine mandatory.

In addition, dentists recommend not putting your baby to bed with a bottle of milk or juice.  The sugars in these drinks will coat the child’s teeth the entire time they are asleep and can accelerate tooth decay.  A bottle of water would be a better solution.

When it comes to snacks, steer clear of sugary snacks and drinks.  Instead, try crunchy healthy foods like apples and carrots.  These foods can actually help scrape off some of the plaque and are good for your child’s teeth.

Finally, start your child’s dental health off right by beginning regular dental cleanings and checkups at an early age.  Most dentists recommend that children visit a pediatric dentist for the first time when they are one year old.  If you start early, your child may get used to the dentist and avoid dental anxiety later in life.


Types of Sedation Dentistry

Today’s dentists offer several different types of sedation dentistry.  The mildest form of sedation in dentistry is nitrous oxide which is available in most dentists’ offices.  Nitrous oxide is given as a gas and produces a light headed euphoria in the patient.  There is also some anesthetic effect but the dentist will numb the area to be worked on with lidocaine or some other anesthetic.  Patients who receive nitrous oxide usually remain awake throughout the dental procedure.

Oral sedatives provide deeper sedation than nitrous oxide, but there is little control over the level of sedation or the timing once the patient has taken the sedative.  Intravenous sedation produces the same deeper sedation, but provided the dentist with much greater control since the dentist can adjust the flow of the sedative to cause the patient to be more or less sedated.  The dentist is also able to control when the sedative takes effect and when it will stop.

Sedation using nitrous oxide or oral and intravenous sedatives are referred to as conscious sedation because the patient is always conscious.  The patient may be so relaxed that they fall asleep, but the patient is easily awoken and can respond to questions.  Whether awake or asleep, one effect of conscious sedation is that the patient usually has little or no memory of the dental procedure.  They are usually surprised that the treatment is completed so quickly, even if it has actually taken several hours.  More and more dentists are offering oral or intravenous sedation dentistry.

Finally, the deepest level of sedation is unconscious sedation using general anesthesia.  Only a few dentists have the training and experience necessary for performing dentistry while the patient is under unconscious sedation.  Since full sedation with general anesthesia is usually done in a hospital operating room, it is often call “hospital dentistry”.


Advances in Cosmetic Dentistry

As cosmetic dentistry continues to increase in popularity, advances are constantly being made to provide new and improved methods and techniques for improving your smile.  If you have long wanted a brighter, straighter smile but have always thought that cosmetic dentistry was too expensive, took too long, or would interfere with your lifestyle, talk to your cosmetic dentist about some of the exciting new options for a smile makeover to whiten and straighten your teeth.

Orthodontics is one area where great strides have been made in the past few decades.  Most adults associate straightening crooked teeth with years of wire braces, but there are several new options for adults to straighten misaligned teeth in much shorter time and without unsightly traditional braces.

Invisible aligners such as the Invisalign system move teeth using a series of clear plastic removable aligners.  The aligners are almost unnoticeable and are removed for eating and brushing.  The Six Month Smiles system uses tooth colored bands and wires and focuses on moving just the front teeth.  As the name suggests, the treatment is usually completed in about six months and the bands and wires are much less noticeable than traditional metal braces.

Porcelain veneers can be used to correct mild misalignments without moving any teeth at all.  Veneers are thin, tooth colored wafers that are bonded to the front surface of the patient’s teeth.  In only two or three visits to the dentist’s office you can walk out with a straight, pearly white smile.

If your teeth are already straight but just a little dingy, cosmetic dentists can use new teeth whitening techniques to achieve amazing results in just one or two treatments.  These are safe, effective treatments for most patients and are very reasonably priced.


Sedation Dentistry Has Come A Long Way

Advances in sedation dentistry have made sedation of dental patients much more common than it was in the past.  For over a hundred years, sedation in traditional dental procedures was typically limited to nitrous oxide, also called “laughing gas”.  In recent years, dentists have expanded the use of other sedation techniques to relax patients and help relieve dental phobia and anxiety.

Sedation techniques are also used for patients who are unable to tolerate traditional dental procedures for various reasons such as an uncontrolled gag reflex, inability to get numb with local anesthetics, or special needs patients who cannot sit quietly for more than a few minutes.  In addition, sedation dentistry can be used for patients who need extensive dental work and want to get as much work done as possible in a single visit.

Although many dentists offer sedation dentistry (also called sleep dentistry), there is actually a range of sedation options and only a few dentists offer a full range of sedation dentistry.  In general, the best level of sedation is the mildest level that will allow the patient to comfortably undergo dental care without pain or anxiety.  You and your dentist can choose the appropriate level of sedation to meet your needs.

The mildest form of sedation is nitrous oxide which has been around for decades and many patients are familiar with.  Some dentists offer a deeper level of sedation using oral or intravenous sedatives.  This is called conscious sedation because even if the patient falls asleep, they can be easily awoken and respond to questions.

Unconscious sedation while the patient is under general anesthesia is the deepest level of sedation.  An anesthesiologist or anesthetist will administer the sedative in a hospital operating room or surgical suite while the dentist performs the dental treatment.

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